Sexual Harassment

Amended law in China offers more workplace protections for women

The new law aims to protect women from pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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As women around the world continue to face gender inequality and fight for basic rights, China recently amended a bill that aims to address discrimination in the workplace.

What in the world? In late October, the Chinese government passed an update to its women’s protection law. The legislation, which went into effect in 1992, was meant to grant women equal rights across various aspects of life, including politics, education, and work, but it lacked specificity.

The updated law has new protections for women in the media and workplace, according to China Briefing. It comes at a time when Chinese women are facing violence, and as the state has reportedly suppressed movements including #MeToo and the work of women’s rights organizations.

Satellite view. When the law takes effect on January 1, 2023, employers will be required to implement sexual harassment precautions—including setting up dedicated channels for female employees to report harassment—and training. However, it’s unclear what, if any, consequences a company might face for not complying with the guidelines, according to the China Project.

The updated women’s protection law also has several provisions aimed at reducing gender discrimination. It will make it illegal, for example, for employers to ask a job applicant about her marital status or to require pregnancy testing as part of their pre-employment physical examination, according to China Briefing. Employers will also be prohibited from reducing a female employee’s pay or firing them for getting married or becoming pregnant. In preparation for January 1, China Briefing notes that employers should examine their existing HR policies and change processes in accordance with the new regulation.

Though the law might appear to be a move in the right direction, some women’s advocates say it is still problematic. The opening text states that women should adhere to “traditional family values,” which has been criticized by some as regressive and vague. “China is attempting to use laws to regulate and discipline women,” Xiaowen Liang, a New York-based activist and lawyer, told Fortune.

What about you, readers? Do you have employees or teams based in China? How do you ensure you’re compliant across borders? Let us know.—KP

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HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.